Real Love

My friends have been posting things they’re thankful for on Facebook all month, which has been interesting and occasionally annoying (a few of the posts, rather than reading “I’m thankful for…” should simply read “I’m smug.” Keep it real, people. No one’s life is that perfect). So. Here’s the thing I’m most thankful for, warts and all:

I am deeply, profoundly, life-alteringly grateful to have found this guy:

I am grateful for him because he is my other half, and the love of my life. He has been my best friend for a decade, and we are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary, and I can honestly say that I love him more deeply now than ever. But if I’m being honest, I can also say that he drives me absolutely bats. He leaves his socks in little balls all over our bedroom. He never ever empties his pockets before he puts his pants and shirts in the laundry. He consistently forgets that we have plans, and because he never turns his phone on, it’s really hard to remind him. Sometimes, and I mean this more literally than I really want to admit, I just want to throw something right. at. him. But I don’t, because he cleans the litterbox every single day, even though the cats are really my pets. On the day that I noticed my first trace of cellulite, he said “what’s cellulite?” and when I explained, he said “doesn’t everyone have that?” and I felt so reassured. Some mornings, he gets up and makes me coffee and lets me sleep in and takes the dog outside, and it’s the nicest feeling in the world, knowing that he will always take care of us. On long road trips, we make each other laugh, we stop for milkshakes, we never (even after all these years) run out of things to talk about. I find it amazing that there is anything new to learn about each other, and so I get to be amazed again and again. I have been with Josh for most of my adult life, and this means that I have no idea what it’s like to be really and truly alone. I remember being someone fairly self-sufficient, once upon a time, but that version of me has been subsumed in the name of this partnership, and now I’m not sure what my life would be like without him, except to say that I know it would be less. There would be less laughter, less hope, less comfort. Fewer road trips. More struggle, more hardship, because this I know: we lessen each other’s load in life. When school gets overwhelming for him, I take over all of the cooking and cleaning. When I get overwhelmed, he does all of that and also rubs my shoulders and tells me it will be alright, and somehow it is, because no matter what goes wrong in my life, he is always there, and our little family will be what matters most to me.

There is not a great deal of romance between us. He has never written me a poem, and does not often bring me flowers. Neither of us has ever been much interested in the trappings of romance. In this way I suppose that we differ from other couples. We have also never had a fight or even a disagreement over money, not even once, and I am told that in this way we differ from other couples as well. There is a tremendous amount of honesty between us. Josh knows me better than anyone ever has, and he would say the same of me. We have been together through the stomach flu, a wrecked car, a house flood, a winter when we ran out of heating oil and it got so cold that a mouse froze to death in the middle of our living room in the night. We have weathered one especially unhinged landlord (although I have to say that with that singular exception, we’ve been incredibly blessed on the roommate and landlord front). We have each been laid off from a job, within a week of each other, which was really scary. But we made it through. The world is so much less scary with Josh by my side, to share in the decision making and to talk me down when I need him to. I do the same for him. When I moved away from the town I call home, I wondered if I would be able to make new friends, but I was brave enough to make the move because my best friend moved with me – it was like I brought my home with me. Josh is home to me.

He tests the limits of my patience, and I test the limits of his. In moments of frustration, we have said terrible things to each other. And then we have forgiven each other. Always. I think that love is constructed of, more than anything, faith and trust and loyalty. Romance is a myth, and manifests as a simulacra in many relationships, a false nostalgia for a past that never was. I have moments when I think that marriage shouldn’t be this hard, that it used to be easier, but in my moments of clarity I know that it has always been hard. Sharing a life with someone is by its very nature hard work. It has also always been beautiful and miraculous, to love him this much, and to know that he loves me back.

In relationships, it’s easy to romanticize the way things used to be – the heady days of hormones and anticipation and fun, the breathlessness and the giddiness. But that isn’t love. It’s infatuation. It’s a euphoria, and it does not last. Love is the part that lasts. Love is the knowledge that no matter what, this other person will walk with you through life, will take care of you, will include you in his or her choices and hopes and plans, will take your side. Love is doing all of that for another person. Love is being a family, warts and all.

I am thankful for Josh because we learned together what it was to be in love, to be married, and to build a life together. We taught each other that love is so much more than a feeling. It’s a commitment, and it’s an honor, and it is the thing that I feel the most deeply when I hear the word “thankfulness.” I am so, so thankful for all that Josh is to me. And I am thankful to have parents and grandparents who modeled real love for me, so that I would know it when I found it. It was one of their greatest gifts to me. My grandma says it all passes by so fast, that every year seems like it flies by faster than the one before it. So I will take this moment to savor it – to be grateful to have the chance to spend my life in love, and to be loved in return.

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